Much of the research on franchising as an organizational form relies on an agency theory explanation. In short, it assumes operators of local franchise establishments will have greater incentive to operate efficiently if they are owners of the establishment (i.e., franchisees) rather than managers employed by the franchisor-owner. However, there isn’t a lot of empirical research substantiating that assumption. Matt Sveum and my recent working paper finds that there does appear to be a franchise effect–but it depends on the nature of the business format. We use US Census data for essentially all limited- and full-service restaurants in the US and find franchising explains differences in establishment performance for full-service, but not for limited-service, restaurants. The abstract follows:
While there has been signiﬁcant research on the reasons for franchising, little work has examined the effects of franchising on establishment performance. This paper attempts to ﬁll that gap. We use restricted-access US Census Bureau microdata from the 2007 Census of Retail Trade to examine establishment-level productivity of franchisee- and franchisor-owned restaurants. We do this by employing a two-stage data envelopment analysis model where the ﬁrst stage uses DEA to measure each establishment’s eﬃciency. The DEA efficiency score is then used as the second-stage dependent variable. The results show a strong and robust effect attributed to franchisee ownership for full service restaurants, but a smaller and insigniﬁcant difference for limited service restaurants. We believe the differences in task programmability between limited and full service restaurants results in a very different role for managers/franchisees and is the driving factor behind the different results.
Roger Blair and Francine Lafontaine have a new paper out on “Formula Pricing and Profit Sharing in Inter-Firm Contracts” (here). They explore the use of profit-sharing contracts for vertical relationships, particularly the case of successive monopoly or the double-marginalization problem. Naturally, their focus is on franchise relations. The abstract follows:
Ronald Coase viewed transaction cost minimization as a central goal of contracting and organizational decisions. We discuss how a solution to the traditional successive monopoly problem that has not been discussed in the literature can economize on such costs. Specifically, we show that when we allow for profit sharing between upstream and downstream firms, a simple formula pricing contract can be used to generate the vertically integrated level of profits. This simple contract, empirically, would take the form of the standard linear wholesale price contracts that are ubiquitous in vertical contexts, even those where we might expect successive monopoly to be an issue. We discuss the advantages of the proposed contract from a transaction cost perspective. We also discuss some of its limitations, in particular the likelihood of misrepresentation of costs, and ways in which such misrepresentation might be addressed in the contract.
Jimmy John’s, the national sub-sandwich company known for being “freaky good, freaky fast,” has been in the news for being rather freaky about having employees sign non-compete clauses as part of their standard labor agreements.
Non-compete clauses are not uncommon for senior executives, technology professionals, or professionals whose business is built on client relationships, like lawyers or sales representatives. And although an article in the New York Times this summer highlights how non-compete clauses are increasingly appearing in unexpected places, one certainly wouldn’t expect such an agreement as a condition of employment at a sandwich shop–unless maybe it was to protect the time-warp technology for their freak fast delivery.
There’s just one problem with the hype in the media around this issue: most of it is ignoring some important facts that call into question just how big a deal this is, except as a media stunt for some disgruntled employees. For example:Continue reading The Economics of Jimmy John's "Freaky" Non-compete Clause